Donald Trump didn’t realize his Thursday interview with Larry King would be on a Russian state-run television network, his campaign subsequently claimed.
“Nobody said it was going to be on Russian TV,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Friday on CNN’s “New Day.” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks also told the Associated Press that the King interview was “for his podcast as a favor to Mr. King.”
“What Larry King does with the interview content is up to him. We have nothing to do with it.” Hicks added.
The GOP nominee’s appearance on RT, the Moscow-based media organization previously known as Russia Today, drew immediate scrutiny as the station is used to back the Kremlin’s messaging efforts. During his interview on RT’s “Politicking With Larry King,” Trump criticized U.S. foreign policy and cast doubt on the idea that the Kremlin is trying to influence the U.S. presidential race.
“U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies reportedly are investigating whether Russia launched a covert operation to disrupt the 2016 election. What do you make of that?” King asked Trump.
“I think it’s probably unlikely,” Trump replied. “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out, who knows? But I think it’s pretty unlikely. But who knows?”
At the end of last month, Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff reported that the FBI had issued a warning about foreign hackers infiltrating U.S. election systems. And U.S. experts have widely stated that Russian hackers were behind the July release of politically embarrassing Democratic National Committee emails.
Trump has adopted a strikingly soft stance on Russia throughout his campaign. In addition to questioning whether Russia was really behind the DNC hack, the GOP property magnate has echoed the Kremlin’s messaging about its annexation of Crimea and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Indeed, during an interview this week on NBC News, Trump touted Putin’s poll numbers and called the Russian autocrat a better leader than U.S. President Obama.
“I’ve already said he is really very much a leader. I mean, you can say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing?’ The man has very strong control over a country,” Trump said Wednesday of Putin. “But certainly in that system he’s been a leader far more than our president has been a leader. We have a divided country,” he continued.
For its part, RT doesn’t appear to be especially concerned about the flap over its Trump interview: It published a Friday story titled: “US media, Trump’s own campaign freak out about his interview on ‘Kremlin RT.’”